Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Meat Run!!

I made my first real meat run tonight since we move to Nebraska from Houston.

The Sam's was on my way home from work in TX, but now I have to go 25 miles out of the way, so I'll be doing fewer, bigger trips from here on. I picked up ground beef, hot italian sausages, two pork butts, 3 racks of BBs, a pork loin and a brisket. I also picked up some disposable aluminum trays and we were out of peppercorns and ketchup.

A lot of people prefer to get their meat from an old-fashioned butcher. If I could find a good one, maybe I would too, but I'll let you in on a little secret....a lot of regular butchers get old animals, especially cows. Sam's for the most part gets younger ones because they buy in bulk from larger slaughterhouses. This, of course, doesn't mean that some (probably most) butchers don't have quality products, but you should know what you're looking at and pick cuts that look good. I'm just saying that I've had good luck at Sam's.

Personally I've never gotten a bad brisket or a bad pork butt from Sam's. Their ribs, for some reason I can't figure out, are more variable than the other cuts, so I carefully pick through them until I find a satisfactory one (I do this for all cuts, actually). That's why I ended up with baby backs today...their spares didn't look great. Sam's sausage is not my favorite either...but they are decent, and relatively inexpensive. I rarely fire up the smoker without putting some sausages on, so I use these. If I have a hankering for some primo sausage, I get it elsewhere.

I'm firin' up the smoker on Saturday...stay tuned!!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Citrus-Brined Boneless Chicken Breasts

Well, I decided to break away from Tarantino's cookbook a little on my next brining recipe. The results were mixed. Overall the chicken was good, but it was a little salty and not quite citrusy enough. I'll tell you what I did, then at the end I'll tell you what I plan to do to fix it.

The ingredients

  • Two quarts of water
  • 1/2 cup of kosher salt
  • The zest and juice of two oranges, two lemons, and two limes. These made about a cup and a half of juice
  • 1/4 cup of light brown sugar
  • 3 spring onions (including greens)
  • handfull of cilantro
I forgot the salt until after I took the pic

This is a handy little zester that I stole from my wife. Only make one pass over the fruit. You want the oil out of the skin, not the white stuff underneath.

You can see that this made a lot of brine for the 6 big chicken breasts that I brined. You can cut the recipe or save some of it for later if you don't need it all. Bring the brine to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes. Cool to room temp, then move to the fridge and cool to 40 deg. I brined these breasts for about 5 and a half hours.

Set up your grill for direct cooking. For boneless breasts I usually put one thick layer of coals so I can cook em' hot and fast. After reading a post on The Smoke Ring I was worried about them being too salty, so I rinsed them, patted them dry, and added some fresh cracked pepper before putting them on the grill.

The finished product!! Like I said, they were good, but not great. They were a little two salty and the other ingredients didn't come thru as well as the other brines I have tried. They were extremely juicy. The texture was good, so I don't think I grossly over brined them.

The fix-- I'm going to try this again because I really like the flavors attached and I think they will work great for boneless chicken. Next time I'm going to add one each of the fruits and I'm going to double the onion, cilantro, and brown sugar. I'm also going to run all of the solid ingredients thru the food processor similar to the other chicken brine I used to release all those flavors better. Then I'm going to brine them a maximum of 3 hours to cut down on the saltiness. I'll let you know how it works.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

El Cheapo Brinkmann (ECB)

Ok, I promised to post about the the ECB, so here it is. The ECB is a very, very affordable way to get into smoking, and lots of folks start out with one. However, they can be extremely frustrating because they are not built very well. I smoked on an ECB straight out of the box for a long time and got some decent results. I wish I had known about the modifications it needed way back then.

I don't want to reinvent the wheel here, so I'm just going to point you to a post on The Smoke Ring written by Alien BBQ (lots of good Q knowledge, that one) and post a pic from his post here.

Here is a pic of Aliens mods. Make sure to read thru
that thread as several folks added good info about the ECB.

Here is a pic of my buddy's ECB in action. He cooks a
mean butt on it.

So, the ECB is a very good option for somebody just getting started. It's cheap and the mods make it manageable. It's still gonna be very, very hands on though. I've often thought about picking another one up. Mainly to do appetizers and cheese when my Chargriller is full of other stuff.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

I'm beginning to like this brining thing: Brined Chicken Halves

The maple bourbon pork chops were such a success I decided to try some brined chicken. This brine recipe also came from "Marinades, Rubs, Brines, Cures, and Glazes" by Jim Tarantino. I cooked them over indirect heat in the kettle like I always do.

The Ingredients

-2 quarts water
-1 cup chopped sweet onion
-6 cloves of garlic
-1/2 cup kosher salt
-1/2 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
-1 tbsp thyme
-1 tbsp chopped rosemary
-1/4 cup fresh ground black pepper
-1 tsp paprika
-1 tsp cumin seeds
-3 bay leaves

For this recipe put the onion, garlic, and a cup of water into a blender or food processor and blend it until you've got a uniform texture (almost liquid). Add that to the rest of the water and ingredients and boil the entire mixture, then simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Cool to room temp then put it in the fridge to 40 degrees. Add the chicken and brine it for 8 to 10 hours.

For this I bought a whole chicken. I buy a lot of whole chickens because they are so cheap (This one was 4 bucks, I think). I guess a lot of folks don't know what to do with a whole chicken, so the grocery stores and butchers cut them up for you and charge a premium. Anyway, if you've never cut up a chicken, or anything else for that matter, just buy one and hack away at it. You're not gonna hurt's already dead!!

I halved the chicken for two reasons: 1) I prefer to cook chicken halves over indirect heat (or sometimes smoked) as opposed to beer-butt chicken...this is just personal preference, and 2) It was easier to brine them in a shallow container. If you'd rather do brined beer-butt chicken, go for it. I'm sure it'll be great. Halving the chicken is easy to do with just a good pair of kitchen shears. Just cut out the backbone, then one cut on the other side to separate the breasts.

Set up your grill for indirect grilling. I used hickory again. Be careful with the wood. The chicken skin really takes in the smoke. I make sure my wood chunks are burning nicely before I cover the Kettle. Right before you're ready to cook, dab the brining solution off of the chicken with paper towels. I then put a light coating of peanut oil on the skin and sprinkled with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.

The Finished Product!! I've cooked a lot of chickens this way in the past, without the brine, and they have turned out fantastic. However, this chicken was probably the juiciest I've ever cooked and the skin was some of the best I've done, too...bite thru crunchy. I'm not sure if the skin was a direct result of the brine or not, because I've gotten crunchy skin in the past, but not consistently. Some investigation is in order......

I'm heading to beautiful Des Moines, Iowa bright and early in the morning on business for a few days. I'll be online some, but it'll be late in the week before I'm able to post anything. Have a great week!!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Tip O' The Hat

Well, I got a tip O' the hat from one of my favorite BBQ Bloggers today...The BBQ Guy. To those of you visiting from his blog, I hope you find something useful here. Those of you who haven't seen his blog, check him out....lot's of good stuff.

Friday, March 16, 2007

My "BBQ" wish list

Now that you've seen what I'm cooking on these days you may be wondering what I wish I was cooking on. Don't get me wrong, I love my Kettle and Chargriller, but I'd like to improve my equipment eventually. The Kettle, however, I will never be without. Right now, I have two different wants when it comes to my cooking: a gas grill and a trailer smoker.

Now, don't get yourself in a tizzy. Yes, I said gas grill. I know some folks think they're made by the Antichrist and it has been years since I owned one, but I'm reconsidered for two reasons. One, it is frickin' cold in Nebraska in the wintertime. With a gas burner I can go out and cook with a minimal time investment. I wouldn't have to mess with charcoal, etc....I can just go out and cook. Secondly, I really need something quick during the week. Mrs. Hog and I are trying to sit down for supper with our oldest daughter (20 months old) on most nights. She needs to eat between 5:30 and 6 so she can have her bath and wind down before her normal bed time (7-730). I get home between 5 and 5:30 most days, so that doesn't leave me a lot of time to do any cooking. With a gasser I could get home and cook up some chops or chicken breasts in no time. So, what do I want/need in a gas grill right now. Well, I'd love to have a super-duper massive stainless steel grill.....but I don't really need (and shouldn't really spend that kindof money) on one of those grills. I'm seriously considering this Brinkmann from Wal-Mart:

It's got the four burners so I could do some indirect stuff if I want too. Although I'll probably still use my kettle for most of that. It's got the side burner, which a lot of folks say they don't use much. I think I'll get my money's worth out of it, though. Mrs. Hog has threatened to force me into using my turkey fryer for some of my sauces and brines because they tend to smell up the house a bit. I don't really like the porcelain-coated cast iron grate that it comes with (Why on earth would you "coat" cast iron). I'd rather have just cast iron or stainless. With a $300ish pricetag, it's doable in the short term (months, not weeks). I'm going to do some more looking around, but I'll let you know when/if I pull the trigger.

Now, for what I'm really Jonesin' for...a trailer cooker. Specifically, I want the Fat50 from Diamond Plate Products:

There are many reasons why I want this particular cooker, not the least of which is that Travis posts occasionally on The Smoke Ring and is a genuinely nice guy. The folks that post on the Ring just rave about this cooker. I'll let you check out the site for info. Do I need that much space? Well, no. Do I need a trailer I can move around? Well, no. Would I enjoy something like this? Well, yes. Would I put something like this to good use? Hell, yes!!!

This is, of course, a significant investment and it won't happen for awhile. I'll probably pick up a Weber Smokey Mountain (as a compliment to the Chargriller, not a replacement) before I get the Fat50.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

My first attempt at brining: Maple Bourbon Pork Chops

I've cooked a lot of meat in my relatively short lifetime, but until a couple of weeks ago I had never brined anything. Sure, I've marinated lots of stuff, but those in the know, know that it is not the same thing. I've never really felt the need to brine because I've cooked practically all cuts of beef, pork, and poultry at one time or another and been satisfied with the results. But, boy, am I glad I decided to give it a try!! If you want the basics of brining, check out this excellent write-up. This Maple-Bourbon brine came out of the cookbook, "Marinades, Rubs, Brines, Cures, and Glazes", by Jim Tarantino (Link in sidebar). These turned out great and I'll do another brine or two straight out of the book. Then I'll start tinkering with recipes once I get the fundamentals down.

The Ingredients

-3 quarts of water
-1/2 cup kosher salt (I used Sea salt cause the G-store didn't have kosher)
-3/4 cup maple syrup (the only "maple" syrup I could find was only 25% maple)
-1/2 cup bourbon (gobble, gobble)
-1 tablespoon ground mustard
-1 bay leaf
-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
-1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

Bring all the ingredients to a boil then simmer for 30 minutes or so. Let the brine cool to room temp and then refrigerate until 40ish degress before adding the meat to it. Never put something this large into your fridge hot or you'll raise the temperature of the fridge too much.

Completely cover the chops (and pork steak) with the brine. The fat in the pork steak made it float a little. I just turned the container over every couple of hours so the brine would penetrate evenly. Brine for a total of 5 to 6 hours.

Set your grill up for indirect grilling. I always add a couple chunks of hickory when I grill indirect (unsoaked--I never soak my wood). I used kingsford because I'm having a hard time finding Lump in South-Central Nebraska (we just moved here). These cooked about an hour indirect, then I cooked them over the coals for a minute or two on both sides.

The finished product! The bottom one was just grilled because Mrs. Hog wasn't sure she would like the bourbon brine...I can't believe she doubted me. They were delicious and Mrs. Hog love the brined ones. Especially the pork steak. The chops were good, but they were a little too thin (1/2 inch). I didn't need all the brine that I made, so I froze it. I'm going to buy a whole loin soon and try it on some thicker (1 inch +) boneless chops. I'll let you know how they turn out.

And just to show you that I eat vegetables, too (in moderation, of course), here is the final plate. Mrs. Hog made a new recipe for tater salad and some sautéed whole peas topped with cashews. It was a great meal.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

What is BBQ?

Growing up in rural North Carolina, BBQ to me was one thing: pork. It may have been from slow roasted shoulders or from a whole hog, but it was pork. It may have been pulled or chopped, but it was pork. It also had a vinegar-based sauce on it, but that's a whole other discussion. Now, BBQ to me is anything that is slow-cooked with real smoke. It could be a pork butt, a whole pork shoulder, a whole hog, a brisket, chickens of any persuasion...hell, even a fatty and atomic buffalo turds (ABTs) qualify...sorta. As long as it is slow-cooked using real smoke, it counts as BBQ to me. On a side note, if you don't know what a fatty or ABTs are, stick around, I'll post on them eventually.

Lots of folks will disagree with me on this, but that is the way I see it. Shoot, we can't even agree as to how to spell BBQ....barbeque, barbecue, Bar-B-Que, BBQ, etc. You know, some folks say they are cooking insert any meat here on the barbecue (barbie for our down-under friends) this weekend....or, let's have a barbecue this weekend. You won't here me using the term "BBQ" in that way, but to each his own. I don't let the semantics bother me much. I will spend an equal amount of time on this blog talking about grilling recipes, techniques, etc. that don't qualify as BBQ in my book. I've been trying some new (new to me anyway) things on the ol' Weber Kettle lately that I'll be posting up in the weeks to come.

So, in short, if it's cooked slowly with real smoke I call it BBQ. But if it is cooked outside using charcoal and/or wood, I'm all for it, whether I call it BBQ or not.


Just a quick word on pictures in my blog. I've decided to add "HogwildBBQ" to all the pictures that I have personally taken (starting now....not previous posts). I'm not trying to keep tabs on my pics or anything...I couldn't really care less. Feel free to photoshop "HogwildBBQ" out of my pics and use them for anything. This is just the easiest way for me to tell you (without actually typing it out) whether or not I actually took a pic that I'm posting. I will occasionally post pics that I have gotten elsewhere....they will not have "HogwildBBQ" on them.

This is just an example (and an excuse to post a pic of my girls).

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Arsenal

As one of my first posts, I thought I would show you what I'm cooking on. I don't use the fanciest equipment, but you know what they say: "It ain't the pit that makes the BBQ, it's the pitmaster". You may have heard that saying put a little differently, but it's true. You can make fantastic Q in a hole in the ground. You don't have to have thousands of bucks work of equipment. Here is what I'm currently using:


Brined chops and a pork steak (I'll post the recipe soon)

Everybody should own a Weber Kettle, in my opinion. They are by far the most versatile grills there are. I guess that is why there are so many knockoffs on the market. Some of the knockoffs probably work as well (or close to it), but I don't want to go thru a few of them to find out. Right now I do most of my direct and indirect grilling on the Kettle. If I need more space I go with my bigger cooker....


I have made lots of good Q on the Chargriller (go to Lowe's if you want to buy'll save a little cash) and would recommend it to anybody. However, cookers in this price range tend to need some modifications to make them work properly, and the Chargriller is no exception. Here is a list of the mods that I have done.
  • Extend the smokestack--When new, the smoke stack only extends an inch or so into the cooking chamber. This doesn't allow the smoke and heat to circulate well in the chamber.
  • Add a good thermometer--The stock thermometer is junk. I added one from BBQ Galore.....unfortunately my "good" thermometer is not working right, so I'm using the Maverick remote thermometer now.
  • charcoal baskets--I bought two of these from Chargriller, but you could make your own or come up with a similar solution. The problem is that with the stock charcoal grate sets too low in the firebox. The ash generated from the charcoal/wood tends to snuff the fire out. By raising the coals a bit you get more airflow and a hotter fire.
  • Baffle--If you don't have some kind of baffle the end of the cooking chamber closest to the firebox gets way to hot while the other end is just about right. Some folks add a baffle made out of sheet metal to their Chargriller to deflect the heat out of the firebox. Because I like to grill on mine sometimes, I just turn the charcoal pan upside down and put in to the highest setting when I smoke.
  • Warmer Plate--Again, I bought it from Chargriller, but you could make your own if you wanted too. This isn't a must, but it's nice to have to heat up/cook sauces, beans, etc.
This was pre-mods (in 2004)

You can see the stack extension, warming plate, and upside down "baffle"

Charcoal baskets

You should be able to see the mods in the pics. If you have any questions about them, leave a comment.


This is an ancient electric grill that I stole borrowed from my Dad. I ripped the guts out of it and used charcoal to cook hundreds and hundreds of hamburgers and hotdogs on it when tailgating for NC State football games (GO STATE!!). Sadly, the grate is burned through and it's relegated to burning down charcoal from time to time.


This is what my buddy, Junior, was cooking on until I gave him my old El Cheapo Brinkman (ECB).

That reminds me. I need to post about the ECB. Don't buy one until you've read my post about it or get in touch with me (comments). They are doable, but, again, need to be heavily modified (more so than the Chargriller).

Hello There

This is my first (and probably only) attempt at blogging. One of my passions is cooking great food for my family and friends. I have a thread on Geezer Gamers where I usually post my recipes and photos. Lots of guys from the website enjoy that thread (at least I think they do), so I thought I'd start posting my stuff for the masses to see. Before I get started I want to make sure any readers here know one thing. The way I do things is just that: the way I do things. You can ask ten pitmasters the best way to cook a pork butt and you'll get ten different answers (with some lies thrown in for good measure ;) ). When I post a recipe or technique I'll try to give credit to where I found them, but I usually deviate from recipes I find in books or on the web and they are usually very different from what I started out with. I'm going to add a list of my favorite cookbooks and links on the sidebar, so be watching for those.

My hope is to post here once or twice a week, usually after I've tried something new on the grill or smoker. I'll occasionally do a cookbook review. During the week I mainly grill and I do my long smokes on the weekend. I'm sortof doing this on a whim, so you'll have to be patient with me as I find my bearings.

Thanks for reading! I hope you find something useful here.